If brands want to get into influencers, check out those with micro- and macro- follower bases. They are far more likely to be credible. Image Credit: Supplied

Influencers became a staple part of society and daily consumer life in the latter half of the last decade. They have had a significant impact upon shaping the essence of the modern day and taking the Middle East region’s brands to the world.

However, they are also the elephant in the room. In the “age of influence”, influencer marketing is on track to becoming a multi-billion dollar industry as companies make the most of this avenue to hawk their products and propositions. Projected to be worth up to $15 billion by 2022, according to a “Business Insider Intelligence” report, the influencer marketing paradigm is showing no signs of losing steam.

But across numerable social media platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Twitch, Tumblr, and Snapchat, audiences and companies alike are awash with influencer fatigue.

The term influencer has become a buzzword that has been rendered meaningless due to the sheer ubiquity of people donning the hat of an “influencer”. With this social media overkill, brands have at times had their reputations marred by ill-performing or underperforming influencer relationships.

They have also struggled to convert their influencer campaigns into social capital.

Despite all of this, influencers are here to stay. What’s more, regionally, there are around 3,000 influencers compared to merely dozens of newspaper mastheads. Instead of shying away from this new reality and avoiding change, we need to embrace a world where anyone with a smartphone or laptop can become an digital brand advocate.

Aiming for lasting influence

So, what’s next for this burgeoning cross-section of the evolving marketing and communications plain? Furthermore, what needs to be done to shake up the negative perception and, at times, controversial traits this sect has embellished upon brands and audiences?

Through the good, the bad, and the ugly, here are three musings on how influencers can create affinity with brands and audiences beyond 2019:

* It’s not influencers we don’t enjoy, it’s poor or misplaced content

Consumers, especially younger audiences, are losing trust in paid influencers and looking instead to organic, grassroots communities where their like-minded peers are sharing exceptional content and commentary about brands and products they actually love. Hence, the type of content influencers put out, and the ways they convey messages, needs to be re-engineered to avoid brand backlash.

Repurposing creator content is another key facet to consider, as the bulk of creative spend goes towards content creation. Video content has been in the spotlight for a while now, and 2020 will see this medium continue to thrive.

As content channels like TikTok and Instagram become more video-orientated, professionally curated and targeted content will win in the years to come.

* Redefining the lines between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ influence

From unauthentic endorsements and zero transparency, to not understanding their jobs or having lots of followers but low engagement, the lines between good and bad influence have become more pronounced in recent times. To avoid social capital taking a dive south, companies need to place focus on the company, not the influencer.

The key to this is ensuring that chosen influencers are aligned with a brand’s vision across all aspects. Instead of choosing influencers with a high number of followers, brands need to put energy into carefully researching the influencers they work with. Vigilant vetting will increase the chances of building relationships built on instilling good, impactful, and meaningful influence.

* Staying on brand - who really influences customers?

Protecting brand value and reiterating brand purpose is essential. To stay relevant in 2020, brands will need to join forces with influencers that can create content that highlight their core values.

Moving forward, influencer marketing success is going to hinge on whether or not brands can foster trust and credibility with audiences while remaining in the driver’s seat. Aligning with influencers through partnerships that demonstrate the kind of authenticity audiences crave, and that reinstate trust and deepen consumers love for products or brands in meaningful ways, will become crucial.

Because of this, we could expect to see a “less is more” approach to influencer marketing as brands opt for combining micro- and macro-influencers within their social media communications mix.

The age of influence has drastically altered the digital space and communications landscape. There is no telling precisely where influencer marketing will go.

However, one thing is certain: brands need to ensure they take the reins to ensure the influencers they collaborate with “swipe up their game” to guarantee brand credibility and positive sentiment in the new decade.

- Abdulwahed Juma is Executive Vice-President for Brand & Corporate Communications, du.